Xiaomi Pocophone F1, hands on: A flagship-class handset that won't break the bank

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Xiaomi has recently had a major success with its £499 (inc. VAT) flagship Mi 8 Pro smartphone, and also proved that it can innovate with the Mi MIX 3 (also £499), whose screen slides down to reveal twin front cameras.

The 6.18-inch Pocophone F1 is more affordable, starting at £329 — yet, like the Mi 8 Pro and the Mi MIX 3, it runs on Qualcomm's flagship-class Snapdragon 845 chipset. Motorola can't match this in its £269 Moto G7 Plus, which runs on the Snapdragon 636, but the 845 chipset is used in the OnePlus 6T — which for many still sets the standard for affordable, flagship-class smartphones. So, how do the Pocophone F1 and OnePlus 6T compare on RAM, storage and price?

Phone

RAM

Storage

Price

Xiaomi Pocophone F1

6GB

64GB

£329

Xiaomi Pocophone F1  

6GB

128GB

£349

OnePlus 6T  

6GB

128GB  

£499

OnePlus 6T

8GB

128GB  

£529

OnePlus 6T

8GB

256GB

£579

Of course there's more to a handset than these headline stats, but a like-for-like comparison gives an idea of where Xiaomi is hoping to hit hard: £349 versus £499 for a handset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage — a delta of £150. Xiaomi isn't just aiming at OnePlus of course, but also at others in this increasingly competitive market segment, which is garnering ever more attention as prices of top-end smartphones continue to soar.

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The 6.18-inch Pocophone F1 runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset with 6GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD card). It measures 75.2mm wide by 155.5mm deep by 8.8mm thick and weighs 182g.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Pocophone F1's build quality is good — OK, the casing is plastic, but there's a narrow silver frame all the way round the edge of the phone that catches the light, as does the Pocophone branding on the back. The twin rear cameras and fingerprint sensor share a slightly raised lozenge that looks rather stylish. The back has a reassuringly matte finish, making it grippy. My Graphite Black handset looked smart, and the Steel Blue livery might be even nicer.  

There is a 3.5mm headset jack on the top edge and a USB-C port on the bottom. There are also two speaker grilles on the bottom of the phone, but just the one speaker. Audio quality is fine, and the single speaker delivers plenty of volume.

The Pocophone F1 supports two SIMs, with the caddy on the left edge; the second SIM card can be replaced with a MicroSD card if you want to boost the internal storage — my review unit had 128GB installed, of which 117.98GB was free.

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Perhaps the biggest downside of this handset is the absence of NFC. As contactless payments become more popular, this could be an issue. The Pocophone F1 isn't IP rated for dust and water resistance, either.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The 6.18-inch screen has an 18.7:9 aspect ratio and includes a fairly wide front-camera notch, which leaves little space for notifications and connectivity information. The display delivers 2,246-by-1,080-pixel (403ppi) resolution and is sharp and bright enough for reading email, viewing the web and watching video. Reading mode reduces blue light and can be scheduled or toggled as required.

The 4000mAh battery has a higher capacity than we're used to seeing at this price point. It accounts for the Pocophone F1's slightly heavy 182g weight, but performs well. The Geekbench 4 battery benchmark gave it a rating of 4393, with the rundown test recording 7 hours and 35 minutes, so it should be good for a day's use. The phone supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, but there's no wireless charging on offer.

As far as processor performance is concerned, the average multi-core score on the Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark was 9134, while the single-core average was 2482. This is more than respectable for a Snapdragon 845-based handset.

There are two rear cameras. The primary camera has 12MP sensor and an f/1.9 lens. The secondary 5MP camera's main function is depth sensing for bokeh (sharp subject, blurred background) shots. AI functionality can detect 25 categories up to 206 scenes and make settings accordingly — it identified my cats, some fruit, and various people with no problem during testing. The front camera has 20MP resolution and its AI can detect 10 different scenes. I found the front and rear cameras perfectly satisfactory.

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MIUI's Quick Ball feature helps with one-handed navigation.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Pocophone F1 runs on Android 8.1 out of the box, and this is augmented by Xiaomi's MIUI software. The app icons have a distinctive look, and Xiaomi's Quick Ball interface is included. This is designed to assist with one-handed use by popping out access to up to five custom-configured system services or apps.

Conclusions

Xiaomi now has quite a compelling range of handsets, with plenty of variety across its different lines. The Pocophone F1 is further proof that it's possible to deliver good performance, plenty of internal storage and relatively long battery life without asking customers to break the bank.

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Where To Buy

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Where To Buy

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 (64GB, steel blue)

Part Number: 6941059610021